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Nigerian Security Forces Accused Of Grave Abuses, Killing 115 In Southeast Region

Nigerian security have been accused of committing atrocities punishable under international law, across the Southeast region.

Nigerian security forces have carried out a repressive campaign that has claimed 115 lives including those of civilians in the Southeast region since Jan. 2021, London-based Amnesty International said in a new report.

According to AI, the Nigerian security agents responded with excessive force in the region’s spiralling violence, unlawfully arresting people and violating their human rights which amount to crimes under international law.

“The evidence gathered by Amnesty International paints a damning picture of ruthless excessive force by Nigerian security forces in Imo, Anambra and Abia states,” Osai Ojigho, Country Director at Amnesty International said.

Tensions between government forces and the proscribed separatist group, the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) have turned worse since 2016 after an attack on their leader, Nnamdi Kanu in his home that killed many.

HumAngle understands the situation became dire following President Muhammadu Buhari’s mishandling and repression. IPOB was designated by the Nigerian government as a terrorist organisation in 2017.

In Dec 2020, the separatist group launched its paramilitary unit dubbed ‘Eastern Security Network’ (ESN).

According to AI, the government said the ESN killed dozens of security operatives and attacked at least 10 public buildings, including prisons and police stations, from Jan. to June.

“In response, security forces comprising military, police, and Department of State Services (DSS) have killed dozens of gunmen, as well as civilians, where attacks have been committed,” AI said.

The rights group said it documented 52 incidents of unlawful killings and 62 cases of arbitrary arrest and torture carried out by security operatives from January 2021.

It added that at least 115 persons were killed by security forces between March and June 2021.

“Many relatives of the victims told Amnesty International that they were not part of the militants that were attacking security agents,” Amnesty said.

“Many of the victims were deposited at government hospitals in Imo and Abia states. According to several hospital sources, all the victims deposited by the police had bullet injuries.”

AI narrated how Uguchi Unachukwu, a Germany-based businessman was allegedly killed by soldiers on May 31 near Owerri airport in Imo state on his way out of the country.

Arbitrary Arrest

According to AI’s investigation, most of the 400 people arrested by the Imo State government in May 2021, were randomly picked up in their homes and off the street and had nothing to do with ESN.

In an instance the rights group gave, a 37-year-old man was arrested in Imo State in May 2021 because his colleague had a birthmark that the police claimed bore semblance with IPOB’s symbol.

It said  soldiers of 82 Divisional Headquarters of the Nigeria Army allegedly arrested 20 residents in Akpawfu, Amagunze and Akpugo communities in Enugu State after an armed gang killed five soldiers and burnt their vehicles.

Quoting eyewitnesses’ account, Amnesty International said the soldiers moved from house to house, arresting youths on suspicion that they had links with ESN militants.

Rather using excessive force, the rights group chief in Nigeria said what was needed was an impartial and open inquiry “to determine what happened and bring to justice all those suspected of criminal responsibility in fair trials before ordinary civilian courts and without recourse to death penalty.”  


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Aishat Babatunde

Aishat Babatunde heads the digital reporting desk. Before joining HumAngle, she worked at Premium Times and Nigerian Tribune. She is a graduate of English from the University of Ibadan.

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